Jury Rejects Claim That Zantac Caused Cancer Diagnosis in First Bellwether Trial

Verdict comes in a Zantac lawsuit against GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer Ingelheim, weeks after Sanofi and Pfizer announced agreements to settle thousands of Zantac cancer claims.

The first Zantac cancer lawsuit to go to trial has resulted in a defense verdict for GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer Ingelheim, after an Illinois jury determined the drug makers are not liable for the colon cancer diagnosis of a woman who used the recalled heartburn drug for nearly 20 years.

The trial involved claims brought by Angela Valadez, 89, who is one of nearly 80,000 people pursuing a Zantac lawsuit against various different companies involved in the manufacturing and sale of the medication, which was widely used by millions of Americans for treatment of acid reflux and heartburn before it was removed from the market in late 2019.

The litigation stems from a massive Zantac recall, which was issued after it was discovered that the active pharmaceutical ingredient is inherently unstable and produces high levels of the chemical byproduct N-Nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), which is a potent human carcinogen.

Valadez and other plaintiffs allege that the drug makers knew or should have known about the Zantac cancer risks, yet continued to market and sell the drug without any warnings. In addition to claims for colon cancer, other plaintiffs have pursued lawsuits over the development of bladder cancer, liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, stomach cancer and other injuries after taking brand name Zantac or one of its generic equivalents.

ZANTAC LAWSUITS

Did you or a loved one take recalled Zantac?

Side effects of Zantac may increase the risk of cancer, due to chemical impurities found in the heartburn drug.

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First Zantac Trial Verdict

Although Pfizer and Sanofi have recently announced Zantac settlement agreements to resolve thousands of claims involving their role in the sale of the medication, and GlaxoSmith Kline and Boehringer Ingelheim have reached one-off agreements to resolve other individual claims on the eve of trial, the lawsuit brought by Valdez was allowed to go before a jury in Cook County, Illinois.

The Zantac trial began at the start of May, involving evidence that Valdez used over-the-counter versions of the heartburn drug from 1995 to 2014, and claiming that the drug caused her to develop colorectal cancer.

Following three weeks of evidence, the jury returned a defense verdict this week, indicating GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer Ingelheim could not be held liable for her injuries. During the trial, the defendants pointed to a number of other factors that could have caused Valadez’s cancer.

While the trial’s outcome is not binding on other Zantac cancer lawsuits, it could have an impact on ongoing Zantac settlement negotiations.

Future of Lawsuits Over the Link Between Zantac and Cancer

The Zantac litigation was initially focused in the federal court system, where claims brought in U.S. District Courts nationwide were centralized before U.S. District Judge Robin L. Rosenberg for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings. However, before the first case ever reached trial, Judge Rosenberg issued a controversial ruling excluding all of the plaintiffs’ expert witness testimony, which was needed to establish that Zantac causes cancer.

Judge Rosenberg’s decision was based on an interpretation of the federal rules regarding the admissibility of expert testimony, resulting in the dismissal of all federal Zantac lawsuits. However, the ruling had no impact on tens of thousands of claims now being pursued in various different state court systems, including Illinois and Delaware, where different standards for the admissibility of expert witness testimony.

In Delaware state court, where the majority of remaining claims are currently pending, Judge Vivian Medinilla is currently weighing whether Zantac cases in that state will be cleared for trial, which will have a major impact on the future of the litigation.

In early April 2024, Sanofi announced a Zantac settlement that resolves about 4,000 claims pending outside of Delaware state court, for an estimated payment of about $100 million. Weeks later, a massive Pfizer Zantac settlement was announced to resolve another 10,000 claims for $250 million.

However, GlaxoSmithKline and Boehringer Ingelheim continue to face the majority of the remaining claims, which are believed to involve about 70,000 people alleging that Zantac caused their cancer diagnosis. Unless the drug makers can convince Judge Medinilla to exclude all of the plaintiffs’ expert witnesses, it is expected that a steady stream of additional claim swill go before juries in the coming months.

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